February 7, 2023
Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-823-8442
Washington, D.C. – NCL is the nation’s oldest consumer and worker advocacy organization, formed in 1899 to work for a fair marketplace for all. NCL has long supported robust competition and affordable, accessible drugs for patients and consumers. We therefore appreciate the opportunity to provide our support for the bill introduced in the 117th Congress entitled “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, co-sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN). This legislation would bar the use of various loopholes in the law to block the introduction and sale of competitor drugs. One such familiar technique brand drug makers have used is claiming that a REMS programs (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies) required by the FDA for the brand version of the drug, prevents a competitor drug from entering the market. This argument goes against the prevailing view within the FDA and the FTC that a REMS requirement on the brand name drug must not be used as a way to block competition.
The Federal Trade Commission voted 4-0 to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on this topic. The FTC brief takes no position on the scope or claim construction of the patent, but argues generally that there is significant harm to consumers when a brand lists a patent on a distribution system in the Food and Drug Administration’s “Orange Book” of approved drugs and thereby blocks the introduction of lower-cost generic medications or other follow-on competition. The FTC’s amicus brief explains how the Orange Book listing process can be abused, and emphasizes the harm to competition and consumers that can result from that abuse, including depriving consumers of potential competition from lower-cost alternatives and the ability to choose between products.
By way of background, we note these additional points:
- REMS, or Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, are required by FDA for certain medications to ensure that the benefits of the drug outweigh its risks. The sole purpose of a REMS is to protect patient safety
- Despite policies that the former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced in 2018 to reduce the use of REMS programs as a way to block competition and access, followed by the CREATES act, which was signed into law in 2019, loopholes remain today
- We look forward to the reintroduction of the bi-partisan bill proposed last fall by Senator Hassan (D-NH)and Senator Braun (R-IN), “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, which would no longer allow FDA approvals of medications to be delayed due to patents listed in the FDA “Orange Book” on REMS
- We hope the legislation will address the problem of companies taking advantage of FDA-mandated safety programs at the expense of patients receiving innovative competitor medications, or generic medications. We believe that “Increasing Prescription Drug Competition Act”, bill will help to address that problem.
About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit https://nclnet.org.